Sometimes, 8% becomes a huge factor. It is evident in the recent election in Germany that everything is ‘relative’ (or nothing is constant) in this world.

Angela Merkel is widely considered as a ‘successful’ lady, as she has been elected chancellor of Germany for the record fourth time. However, the percentage of votes received by her party fell 8% this time compared to 2013 election. Her seats, too, in Bundestag or Lower House of the German Parliament decreased by 5%. We can argue that it isn’t a big issue for a leader, who has been elected chancellor for the fourth consecutive time, to get fewer votes; keeping in mind that anti-incumbency factor is an important issue in modern-day politics in any country.

In a rare first, the right-wing nationalist ‘Alternative for Germany’ (AfD) emerged as the third largest party in Bundestag. AfD, which had received less than 5% votes in 2013, managed to secure nearly 13% votes in 2017. It’s the best performance by a right-wing ultra-nationalist party in German elections in the last 50 years. For Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the outcome of the September 24 election is a huge blow as many of her supporters cast votes in favour of a party with a completely different ideology this time. As a result, Merkel is not at all happy even after winning the election.

For the first time, the ‘militant nationalist’ German Freedom Party has entered into the Bundestag. The young and ‘first time’ voters cast their votes in favour of the Freedom Party. It shows that the ‘new and emerging’ Germany is not liberal, tolerant and progressive. Majority of the people in ‘new’ Germany wants the country to be for the Germans, and not for the refugees, immigrants and outsiders. They also want the state to glorify its old ‘Aryan’ culture again. Naturally, this call triggers a ‘cold wave’ across the globe, reminding a ‘terrible’ historical event. Germany hasn’t experienced such public expression since WWII. After more than seven decades, ultra-nationalist forces returned to the mainstream politics in the European country. Indeed, it’s a historic development, as one of the first two Freedom Party leaders, who were at the top of the outfit from 1956 to 1978, was a SS officer and an influential person in Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party, and the second one was involved in killing thousands of Jews.

However, the rise of Freedom Party, also called the Neo-Nazi, is not a sudden development. For the last couple of years, entire Central and Eastern Europe has been under the grip of conservatism or “galloping populism”. Uninterrupted arrival of Syrian refugees in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and other countries in the region has triggered the rise of ultra-nationalism, and also influenced government policies for immigrants.

Currently, Europe is trying hard to counter the idea of ‘political Islam’. It will be wrong to describe the ongoing trend from the angle of anti-terrorism, as it is a clear case of Islamophobia. Although France has managed to protect its ‘liberal democratic’ character, Germany has failed to do so mainly because of Chancellor Merkel’s active leadership in the refugee-rehabilitation project.

The outcome of German election has sent a strong message to Europe: winter arrives in the continent. Experts predict that Europe has a tough time ahead of it.

Koushik Das, based in the Indian capital of New Delhi, is a senior news editor with more than 15 years of experience. He also runs a blog - Boundless Ocean of Politics. E-Mail: [email protected]